Harry Winks was originally likened to Andres Iniesta as a kid, but his youth coach sees him more in the mould of Zinedine Zidane.
The Frenchman helped guide France to the World Cup in 1998 and won the Ballon d’Or in the same year.
“When he was a little winger he scored lots of goals, but my idea of playing him in the middle was that he would be more involved and use all his skills much more,” Small told the Daily Mail .
Winks has now become a regular in Tottenham’s midfield having made his Premier League debut in 2016 and scored his first England goal in Saturday’s 4-0 win in Kosovo.
And the midfielder, who looks a shoo-in for Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad, has never forgotten the words of wisdom given to him as a youngster.
Small continued: “It made my day to hear him say it’s the best advice he’s been given. If it has stuck in his mind for this long, obviously it was a good decision on my part!
“He took it in his stride. It was already there, that natural ability to read the game and be technically good enough to do what we wanted.
“Mauricio Pochettino has called him ‘Little Iniesta’.
“If there was anyone I would compare him to it would be Zinedine Zidane. The way he could see a pass, short or long, he could go past a player and he scored goals.
“He was average height but very slight. He was physical enough and agile enough to use his skills and keep out the way of stronger players. I can’t remember him having a bad game, he was that consistent at that age. There was nothing you asked him to do that he couldn’t do.”
Winks signed a new five-year deal earlier this year which will keep him at Tottenham until 2024.